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Last Updated: Friday, 4 July, 2003, 10:10 GMT 11:10 UK
Child urges centre's closure
Beriwan (right) and her sister Nevrooz are being held in Dungavel
A teenage asylum seeker has made an emotional plea for the closure of a Scottish detention centre because "children are suffering inside".

Beriwan Ay made the call on Friday as some of Scotland's most prominent churchmen urged the UK Government to release her family from Dungavel in Strathaven, Lanarkshire.

The 14-year-old said: "Fences are all around us and there's barbed wire. It's very difficult for children to live in here."

The family, which includes four children aged between seven and 14, have been in Dungavel since they came to Britain from Germany - where they had already been rejected for asylum.

Immigration Minister Beverley Hughes said that while the Ay children were blameless their parents were not.

"The issue here is the way in which the parents have dragged this case out in a way that is wholly disadvantageous to their children," she said.

Turkish Kurds

Beriwan said she and other children are only allowed outside the centre for two hours a day and that school books were only aimed at five to seven-year-olds.

She added: "They should close down the family unit because children suffer in here. It's not a good place for children living here. They're just children who don't understand why they are here - they need their freedom."

Yurdugal and Salih Ay and their children - Newroz, 13, Beriwan, 14; Medya, seven, and Dilowan, 11 - had been seeking refuge after leaving Turkey, where Kurds regularly face oppression.

Despite medical reports that they have suffered greatly and are experiencing severe emotional and mental health problems, the Home Office has not acknowledged the damage done by their long-term detention.

While the government has our sympathy in the task of processing such an enormous quantity of asylum applications, the treatment given to the Ay family is inexcusable and demands some form of compensation

Mr Ay was last year deported to Turkey after returning to Germany to attempt a new asylum appeal. His wife and children remained in Scotland and have been living in Dungavel for almost a year.

On Friday, leading figures within the Church of Scotland and Episcopalian Church signed an open letter published in several newspapers.

Former Moderator of the General Assembly, John Cairns, and Episcopalian Bishop of Glasgow, Idris Jones, joined calls by the Roman Catholic Bishop of Motherwell, Joseph Devine, Muslim groups and the STUC to release the family from detention.

Others who have pledged their support for the appeal include the general secretary of the Scottish Trades Union Congress, Bill Speirs.

They claim it is inhuman to detain children behind barbed wire fences for 11 months with no opportunity to leave what they describe as "a prison regime".

'Moved around the world'

The open letter urged the Home Office, which said the family had been "serial absconders" while their asylum application was being processed, to consider the effects of imprisonment on the Ay children.

But Ms Hughes said the family's case had been "repeatedly" tested in court, and the family should return to Germany for their claim to be dealt with properly.

Dungavel Detention Centre
The centre has come under fire
The MP told BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme: "They are in our custody because their mother refuses to go back to Germany voluntarily.

"She can do that any time, and there is no doubt that is what ought to happen.

"These children have been moved around the world since they were born.

"They do need stability - but the fact they have not had it is wholly down to what the parents have been doing."

"I do accept it's not good for children to be in a place where they can't get out, but within Dungavel the conditions are very good and the staff have been commended for the way they treat people."

Government lawyers have argued that allowing the family to stay could have an "appalling effect" on UK immigration control.

Colin Mackinnon reports
"The Home Office has defended its handling of the case"

Beriwan Ay
"It's not a good place for children living here"

Pledge over child asylum seekers
23 Jun 03  |  Scotland
Bishops condemn asylum 'disgrace'
14 Mar 03  |  Scotland

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